The “Silence Breakers”

The “Silence Breakers”

The #MeToo Movement

Time magazine has named “The Silence Breakers,” representing people who came forward to report sexual misconduct, as its Person of the Year.

On Wednesday, the magazine named the #metoo movement — or the “Silence Breakers” as the “Person of the Year,” a nod to the millions of people who came forward with their stories of sexual harassment, assault and rape after big Hollywood players like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and dozens of other powerful men were accused of sexual misconduct.

“For giving voice to open secrets, for moving whisper networks onto social networks, for pushing us all to stop accepting the unacceptable, The Silence Breakers are the 2017 Person of the Year,” Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthan said in a statement.

Founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke, appeared on the cover along with actresses Rose McGowan, Selma Blair and Ashley Judd, who broke the silence by coming forward with accusations against Harvey Weinstein. Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler was one of the women on the cover. She posted a powerful blog entry in February about harassment she faced during her time at the company.

Taylor Swift, who won $1 in a sexual harassment trial against a Denver DJ accused of groping her also appeared on the magazine’s cover.

Burke first used the phrase that would be come such a widely used hashtag in 2017 more than a decade ago while working with young survivors or harassment and assault. Actress Alyssa Milano was sent a screenshot of the phrase and chose to send it out on Twitter.

“If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,” she wrote. She told Time she woke up to more than 30,000 uses of the hashtag and burst into tears.

The focus was not only on those in Hollywood or in TV journalism. A strawberry picker from California named Isabel Pascual was one of many to take to the streets of California to join stars and civilians alike in their march against the abusive behavior.

While many of the people featured in Time’s piece were women from all professions, actor Terry Crews was also included for speaking out against popular agent Adam Venit, who he accused of groping his genitals at a party and is now suing.

What does it all mean for leadership?

It should serve as a wake up call to leaders in all organisations – your central work is to create a culture of safety that enables speaking up so that we no longer have to rely on courage as the vehicle for transparency.

Unfortunately, there are too many examples and case studies to count involving bullying, poor behaviour and a tolerance for toxic cultures.

I have previously written about psychological safety on this blog.

In order to have the type of robust, honest conversations needed, you will need to work on creating high levels of psychological safety. Last November, Google published the five traits of its most successful teams – the first and most important was psychological safety, which has been described as a ‘‘shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking.’’  Psychological safety is a necessary pre-condition for conversations that happen early and often, no matter what the problem or opportunity.

How do we create psychological safety?

Here are five ways to foster an environment where people feel safe.

  1. Listen – listening is an underutilised skill! Listen your way to agreement.
  2. Balance advocacy and inquiry – ask at least as many questions (inquiry) as you do tell/express an opinion (advocate). Effective leaders know how to ask challenging open questions rather than just spew out never-ending opinion.
  3. Authority – use your authority carefully and dutifully. Authority should not be your default style and approach.
  4. Don’t judge – our brains are wired to judge our environment, including other people – it helps keep us safe. But it also creates conflict, fear, marginalisation and low trust.
  5. Work on yourself – continue to work on yourself, and in particular what triggers you to move in to fight, flight or freeze. Understand and work on the triggers so people feel they can talk with you in an honest way that won’t send you off.

See the original article here, with thanks from Time Magazine.

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The “Silence Breakers”